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Introduction to Vital Records
Vital Records consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded on registers, certificates, and documents. United States Vital Records has additional research guidance on researching and using vital records. A copy or an extract of most original records can be purchased from the Maryland Vital Records State Department of Health or the County Clerk's office of the county where the event occurred.
Vital Records Reference Dates
Maryland's civil records start the following years:
Maryland Birth, Marriage and Death Records Online
The following is a list of online resources useful for locating Maryland Vital Records which consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths. Most online resources for Maryland Vital Records are indexes. After locating a person in an index always consult the original record to confirm the information in the index.
- Maryland Births and Christenings, 1639-1995 -Free
- Maryland Deaths and Burials, 1877-1992 -Free
- Maryland Marriages 1666-1970 -Free
- Maryland Death Index 1989-1944 and Balitmore City Death Index 1875-1972 -Free Courtesy of the Maryland State Library and Archives
- Search the Maryland Birth, Marriage & Death Records at Ancestry.com - $
- Order Maryland Certificates - $
Some births were recorded in colonial Maryland by the Maryland General Assembly but not many survived or where ever recorded (no state records from 1800 until 1865). Birth registration was inconsistant but started again in 1865. In 1875, Baltimore began recording births. In 1898, counties in Maryland began recording births, although full compliance did not happen until the 1910s.
For detailed information about availability, content, and history about birth records in Maryland click on this link:
Records of marriages were generally the first vital records kept consistantly in Maryland by the Maryland General Assembly. Early colonial marriage records includes banns and marriage registers. By 1777, marriage licenses were required but it wasn't until 1865 that the county court recorded all marriages in Maryland.
For more information about availability, content, and history about marriage records in Maryland, click on this link:
The earliest death records in Maryland was the Maryland General Assembly requiring the registration of burials. This lasted until 1695. The Maryland General Assembly assigned responsibility to the Circuit Courts in 1865 and the County Courts in 1898 - but compliance was spotty. It wasn't until 1914 that all deaths in Maryland were recorded.
For more information about availability, content and history about death records in Maryland, click on this link:
Before the Revolutionary War, no divorces were granted in Maryland. Following the Revolutionary War and unitl 1842, divorces were granted by the state legislature. These records are absracted in the following book:
- Mary Keysor Myer, Divorces and Names Changed in Maryland by Act of the Legislature 1634-1854. Worldcat (FHL Collection Book 975.2 V28)
For divorces after 1854, and if the county and date of the divorce are known, contact the clerk of the circuit court in the county in which the divorce was granted. Baltimore records are kept by the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas of Baltimore City. Many records from Baltimore City and many metropolitan counties have been transferred to the Maryland State Archives.
For divorces granted before 1992, there is no statewide index. For a research fee, the Maryland State Archives will search its resources for a 5-year period in the county where the divorce is believed to have occurred and the counties ajoining it. For divorces after 1992, the Division of Vital Records can verify the county the date of the divorce, but cannot issue a cerified copy of the decree.
For more detailed information about availability, content, and history about divorce records in Maryland click on this link:
- Information listed on vital records is given by an informant. Learn the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) of the record. The closer the relationship of the informant to the Subject(s) and whether or not the informant was present at the time of the event can help determine the accuracy of the information found on the records.
- If you are unable to locate vital records recorded by govenments, search for church records of chiristening, marriage, death or burial. A family Bible may have been used to record births, marriages and deaths.
- Records for African American may be recorded in separate files with separate indexes.
- Privacy laws may restrict your access to some vital records. Copies of some vital records recorded in the last 100 years may be uanavailable to anyone except a direct relative.
- Search for Vital Records in the Family History Library Catalog by using a Place Search and then choosing Vital Records. Search for Maryland to locate records filed by the State and then search the name of the county to locate records kept by that county.
Online guides to Maryland vital records research courtesy of the Maryland State Library and Archives website are as follows:
In addtion, the Maryland State Library and Archives hosts an online genealogy workshop concerning African American families and will soon add a segment about Maryland vital records.
Lost and Missing Records
Counties with fragmented records:
Allegany (1893), Anne Arundel (1704), Calvert (1882), Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester (1852), Frederick, Harford (1858), Kent (1720), St. Mary's (1831), Somerset (1831), Talbot, Washington (1871)
- Maryland Church Records: Depending on the denomination, church records may contain information about birth, marriage and death.
- Maryland Cemetery Records: Cemetery records are a rich source of birth and death information. These records may also reveal family relationships.
- Maryland Census: Census records are a valuable source for birth and marriage information. You may also determine approximate time of death when the individual disappear from the census. This is a good place to begin a search.
- Maryland Newspapers: Besides obituaries, local newspapers may contain birth and marriage announcements and death notices. Also check newspaper social columns for additional information.
- Maryland Periodicals: Local genealogical and historical societies often publish periodicals which may contain abstracted early birth, marriage and death information.
- Maryland Military Records: Military pension records can give birth, marriage and death information, In addtion, soldiers' homes records can included this same information.
- Maryland Probate Records: If no death record exists, probate records may be helpful in estimating when an individual has died. Probate records in the 20th Century often contain the exact death date.
- Maryland History: Local histories, family histories and biographies can all be sources of birth, marriage and death information. Often this information is found in county-level records or in surname searches of the Family History Library catalog.
More Online Links
- USGenWeb.org Maryland Site – Free
- German Roots Links for Maryland Birth & Marriage and Death Records - Free/$ These links are for all groups, not just those of German descent.
- Maryland Databases listed on Rootsweb.com - Free
- Maryland Links from fhlfavorites.info - Free
- Progenealogists Links for the United States. Press Ctrl + F on the keyboard to search for Maryland or MD - Free/$
Family History Library Maryland Vital Records Collections
This is a collection of Family History Library records which are abstracted, indexed and titled the Maryland Vital Records Index. For over 30 years, volunteer indexers extracted this information from microfilm copies of the original records. In 1998, a few of the entries were published on 7 CDs by the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the "North America Vital Records Index." This index is an index of the births, marriages, and deaths throughout Kentucky. The index is not necessarily complete for any particular place or region.
These records are availble online for free at FamilySearch Historical Records Collection.
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